yes, dogs can impact your mental health

My Mental Health Journey: 

I am 24, and I suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Each of these are linked to trauma that I have been working through continually. My mental health journey began when I was around sixteen years old. I always knew something was wrong, but I never knew what it was until my senior year of college. I started therapy and have been in treatment ever since. 

In the last year, I have been put on two different medications to help stabilize the imbalance of chemicals in my brain. It’s been an on-and-off battle. While the medication does help, I began to notice that my household dog, Dj (who I’ve had for 15 years) brought me comfort throughout this battle with my brain. I realized that I felt peace — I felt safe — knowing that he was there; I felt happiness.

 I have always wanted another dog, but after coming to this realization, I wanted the dog to be mine. Not just any dog, but a Goldendoodle. I knew a lot of people with this breed. I did my own research on the breed and how to take care of them and started looking for my forever best friend.

My Brain’s Best Friend: 

Now, you might be wondering, did I get that Goldendoodle? Yes, yes I did. It has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I got my little mini Goldendoodle, Nacho, on an impulse when I found his cute little picture on a website while shopping in HomeGoods. The moment I saw his picture, I knew he needed to be mine. I just felt like “this dog was meant for me.” I called up the breeder and got all the information I needed. I called on a Wednesday, and I met my future puppy that Friday. My boyfriend was kind enough to drive me three hours to meet not only what would be my best friend, but also my furry child. Nacho, born with the name Scout, was one of twelve puppies. When I walked in, I swear it’s like he also knew I was going to be his mom. 

He ran up to me and jumped on me while giving me tons of kisses. He was super playful, so active. Already, I was so happy. I could feel my anxious emotions change to positive ones. I actually started crying with joy when I met him. I wasn’t able to take him home until that Monday. I left my deposit and went back home. I didn’t stop thinking about him for the entire weekend. I was too ecstatic thinking about all the things I would do once I brought him home. 

Bringing him home gave me the will to keep pushing forward. I have a lot of hard days due to my mental illness, days where all I want to do is lay in bed. On those days, Nacho makes sure I am not alone. I have a routine with him. We wake up together and we go to bed at the same time. I feed him, we go on walks together. Fresh air is important both for me and him. I love to bring him outside and to watch him run around. I stay active while playing with him instead of laying in bed. Even though it was impulsive, he came to me at a time where I really needed him. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was missing something, I was missing Nacho. I still have some of those days, but they are less lonely now.

I wanted to keep fighting for my life, both for myself and for him. I have indebted my life to this wonderful creature. When I am with him, the world feels alright. I don’t feel scared, I don’t feel like a burden. I have a purpose. He protects me just as much as I protect him. When he knows when I am feeling down, he cuddles close to me, gives me his paw, or slobbers me with kisses. 

He has impacted me so much, I decided to go for one of my dreams, a dream I never thought I was capable of achieving. Nacho truly inspired me to write my very own children’s book, based on him. Having Nacho has unleashed the spark inside me that I needed to write my book. It is in production, which is something I never thought I would be able to say. It has been a stressful journey, but it has been worth it.

Something to make you smile: 

On Halloween, I took Nacho to an assisted living home. The home was having a costume dog parade for the people who reside there. This particular nursing home was where my Nonna resided before she passed. I was hesitant to go, as I haven’t been there since her passing. However, Nacho gave me the mental strength to go, and I am so glad I went. I loved seeing all the other dogs dressed up. I loved seeing all the old people light up with joy as every dog went around saying hello. Nacho never got to meet my Nonna, but I know she was there watching us in the parade. That alone made it even more special. This pushed me out of my comfort zone and it was all because of a dog parade. I left the parade feeling happy and incredibly grateful to experience such a wonderful day.

Dogs are so wonderful. It’s hard to explain how an animal can be the best thing to happen to you. They believe in you and they love you through thick and thin. Now, I need YOU, the reader, to love yourself as much as a dog (or any animal) would. You also need to take care of yourself the way you take care of your furry companion. They can sense it. Don’t turn them away when they start following you around all day. Take some time to reconnect with yourself while your little pupper gives you the best love ever. Good days are normal, bad days are normal, but the love you and your dog share will never change.

Written by ToniAnn Romeo

This article has been republished from Renewed Awareness Magazine.

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